Wednesday, November 25, 2009

cheesy question

I received this note on proposed milk regulation changes, forwarded by Lynn Mayo:
Dear Friends and Family;

I’m asking you for a favor, one that won’t take much time but could make a difference. A little history is in order about how I came to be asking for help. I have several clients that have home dairies (both goat and cow). They make terrific cheeses but they can’t sell those cheeses due to government regulations, which in Alaska are based on USDA guidelines. This sounds OK until you read the guidelines, which are actually the size of a mystery novel. Under current regulations, local cheese producers would have to have an eight-room facility including a laboratory to check for antibiotics in the milk. As one of my clients says, “ If I didn’t give them antibiotics who would have?” The point is, these rules are made for large dairies and pushed by the American Dairy Association to further their interests not ours.

Let me be very clear; we are talking about cheese made from pasteurized milk. This is cheese that these small producers are feeding to their own families and friends. Under these current rules, Alaska does not and will never have a cheese industry. This concerns me. One reason is from an economic development standpoint. My friend is asked weekly to sell cheese or milk (many children can't drink cow's milk). This would not be a huge industry, but it is still dollars that leave Alaska that could be reinvested here. Have you noticed lately what artisanal cheeses are selling for at the supermarket? The ability to sell cheese would provide a good supplementary income for these farm families. Secondly, we Alaskans don't produce much. If our supply chain were ever interrupted due to war, disease, natural disaster or economic meltdown, things here could become dire. We should encourage people in our community to raise dairy animals so that in the event of an emergency, there would be a source of milk for those most in need of it. Thirdly, I'm quite frankly sick of government sticking their collective noses into places where they don't belong. I don't mind being protected from things that are dangerous, but they have taken the definition of dangerous to absurd lengths. As it is, we have very little idea of the regulations that exist for the manufacture of cheese which we import from other countries. Wouldn't you prefer to buy from a farmer you know?

Jennifer Ansley, a local goat owner, (She makes and sells those terrific goat’s milk lotions and soaps you buy around town. Far Above Rubies is the name of her product.) and I have spent a lot of time on this. We’ve met with people from the university, the State Veterinarian, people from the DEC, senators and representatives, officials from the FNSB and others. Everyone is sympathetic but most have the ‘can’t get there from here attitude’. However, currently there is a proposed cheese regulation [PDF] out for comment. We have been led to believe that if they get enough response from the public, they might be willing to change the regulations.

So here is what I’m asking you to do.
1. Write a short comment stating you would be in favor of an exemption for home dairies from the proposed regulation 18AAC32 [PDF] and e-mail it to Or you could call him at 907-929-7335. Jay Fuller is with the State Veterinarian office. Note that this is only about cheese. Please don’t muddy the waters with any other issues.

2. Forward this to as many Alaskans as you can.

The deadline for comments is December 3rd at 5pm.

If this works, maybe we could change some other things too. Who knows, maybe we could make the democratic process work after all.

Thank you so much for your help. This is an issue that is important to me. If you find yourself in the same situation, let me know I would be glad to help. You can e-mail me or call me @ 474-4576 weekdays or 488-2666 evenings and weekends with questions or comments.

Paul [Robeson]
I don't know much about milk production in the state, but I do know a lot of people have a few goats. The School of Ag used to do testing of milk for small farmers, but I don't know that this issue would pertain to that.


Trey said...

Thanks for posting this. My letter to Mr. Fuller has been sent. I hope this works - can't wait for some yummy local goat cheese!

off2fish said...

I am all for small farms and dairies and giving more local food choices to the community. Getting the FDA to do anything is akin to racing snails. Have the local farmers thought about running a co-op for their processing needs?